Councilman Kafton again ignoring advise of township attorney
At this past Tuesday's meeting of the Jackson Township Council a resolution was presented to appoint three residents to the township's Zoning Board of Adjustment. Such appointments in Jackson are often done with little fanfare. There are also times when those proposed for appointed are denigrated during proceedings. Tuesday was definitely the latter of the two.
On April 26 of this year Zoning Board Chairman Barry Calogero distributed a letter to members of the council and administration concerning the upcoming vacancies. In his writing he recommended the reappointment of Peter Maher who serves as the board's Vice Chairman, John Burrows who serves as Alt #2 and Dr. Sheldon Hofstein.
In his letter Calogero declared that "All three gentleman have served the Zoning Board of Adjustments honorably and have represented the residents of Jackson with dignity and pride."
Calogero continued, "Their professionalism is unquestionable ,their commitment to smart growth and development is impeccable, as they always consider the impact each application will have on the residents of Jackson first and foremost on every vote they preside over."
Given the 2 months advance notice to the members, Council President Bressi instructed the Township Clerk, Ann Marie Eden, to call for a vote. First in voting order is Councilman Kafton who immediately objected to the format of the resolution, claiming that he wished to vote for two of the three. He asked why all three names were on a single resolution. Councilman Martin responded that appointments to boards and committees have always been done that way. Kafton immediately rejected that as invalid, to which Martin asked," Ann Marie, how long have you been the clerk here in Jackson?". She responded "Twelve years". Martin asked if there had ever been single resolutions prepared in the past and the clerk responded "No, it has always been the practice to have a single resolution".
Kafton then requested guidance from Dennis Kelly, the township attorney in attendance. Mr. Kelly stated that he could not vote for individuals if they all appeared on a single resolution. He added that there was nothing precluding the presentation of individual resolutions, but that given the format of the current resolution it was a yes or no vote for all, with an option to abstain completely. To that, Kafton called for the resolution to be pulled and replaced at the next meeting with three separate resolutions. Mr. Martin responded that they no longer had that option because appointments needed to be made before July 1, in accordance with state statutes.
Council President Bressi called for the vote to continue, but that call was met by enduring belligerence from Councilman Kafton who continued to insist he wanted to vote for only two of the three. Bressi directed Clerk Eden to mark Kafton as "refusing to vote". Kafton once again decried his incessant desire to vote for just two and proceeded to split his vote. In a complete violation of procedure he voted yes on Peter Maher and John Burrows, indicating that he would never vote for Dr. Hofstein.
As the remaining council members voted in favor of the appointments, Kafton continued to speak over them insisting that he has voted and that he would be heard. The rest of the members approved the resolution resulting in a vote of 4 yes and 1 no, as recorded by the clerk.
A short while later during the open comments portion of the meeting there was a comment from resident Paul Mayerowitz directed at Kafton, suggesting that he owes Dr. Hofstein an apology for the manner in which the resolution was handled. Councilman Kafton wasted no time responding "I don't like Mr. Hofstein. I don't think that anyone that wants to write letters about me in the paper, I have to vote for". Despite a stellar recommendation from the chairperson, Kafton's vote was nothing more than a reflection of a personal issue. One for which he was apparently willing to deprive the residents of exemplary representation.
Dr. Hofstein then took the microphone and expressed his concern that Councilman Kafton would allow personal issues to influence his vote so easily. Kafton then stated the reason was because Dr. Hofstein held a NJ Real Estate license and that he didn't believe that anyone holding such a license should serve on planning or zoning boards. When Dr. Hofstein reminded Kafton that he had voted for him 4 years earlier, Kafton's response was "and i'm sorry I did".
During the brief encounter between Hofstein and Kafton three things were established. That Dr. Hofstein's license had expired two years earlier and he did not renew it, that Dr. Hofstein held the license 4 years ago when Kafton voted for him, and that Councilman Kafton himself had sat on the Planning Board while holding a real estate license.
Resident Richard Egan came to the microphone and questioned Councilman Kafton's prior position on the Open Space Preservation Committee which records indicate Kafton sat on from July of 2008 to June 30 of 2010. Kafton first stated "I don't know if I did sit on the board". Continuing, he said "I would not be involved in anything with th epurchase of land". Mr. Egan pointed out that since the Open Space Preservation Committee's purpose was to recommend the purchase of open space to the council, being a realtor in the township was an immeidate conflict.
Another resolution that brought similar controversy was the renewal of liquor licenses for the period of July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. As before, the resolution contained the names of all licensees to which Councilman Kafton objected. And again, despite conversation with other members of council and advice of the attorney, he verbally split his vote insisting he had the ability to vote no for the license held by Ira Port.
Kafton stated his objection to Port was the time he has held his license "in pocket", a status that indicates it is not being used. Of the 14 Plenary Retail Consumption Licenses renewed under the resolution, 4 are currently in pocket, yet the objection was to an individual Licensee, not all those being held in pocket. Councilman Kafton stated the reason he objected was the amount of time this license has been held in pocket. A review of the other three with similar status shows Licensee Steven Nussbaum being issued prior to 2001, three years earlier than the 2004 issuance of the license to Port..
It seems that with two months advance notice on the Zoning board and the liquor licenses being voted on each year, that Councilman Kafton would have brought these issues up prior to the moment of the vote. One can't help but ask, how much preparation goes into his meeting attendance. It would be a welcome change to see some members of the council better prepared for the evening's proceedings. - Jackson Record Staff Report